Category: One Focus Blog

Some of the Richest People I Know Don’t Have Any Money

Since I have the privilege of teaching Bible internationally, my friendship circles are as big as the globe. I have been incredibly enriched by getting to know so many people from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures.  I have been exposed to them in their churches and their homes and have been the recipient of their amazing hospitality.

Some of the richest people I know don’t have any money. “Poor me” is not in their vocabulary. In spite of extremely limited material resources, they do not feel deprived. They share freely – many times giving the best of what they have to their guests.

Their joy does not come in the possession of things, but in the contentment of a life that is counting for something far greater than anything material. They love God. They love life. They love people.

Like Jesus, who had nowhere to lay his head, they understand all the resources of heaven are at their disposal. Their measurements of riches, however, are not monetary.

They are rich in:

  • loyalty, love and laughter
  • honor, hope and humility
  • generosity, grace and genuineness
  • patience, peace and purity
  • justice and joy
  • faith

Some of the richest people I know don’t have any money. They have Jesus.

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13).

Preparation, Hope and Predicting the Future

None of us can predict the future. Or can we? Like the rest of my country, I watched and prayed when Hurricane Irene made her way along the eastern coast of America. Weather experts noted the historic nature of this storm and the impact it could have and eventually did have on those in her path.

Even those not directly affected by the storm were aware of the havoc she caused. Air travel was interrupted all over the nation proving to bring about yet higher prices for airline travel which does impact the rest of us.

There is a ripple effect on an entire nation because of a major storm – just as there is a ripple effect from a dismal economic crisis.

Several times during the week Hurricane Irene showed up, I heard the phrase, “Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.” The advice was directed toward those who would potentially be in the path of Irene’s fury. With all the technology available to experts, their best predictions were still an educated guess. Some of them, when questioned about what would happen, said, “Give me 24 hours, then I can tell you.”

There were, sadly, many who lost loved ones and property because of this storm. Losses would have been greater still, though, had people not heeded the advice to prepare, evacuate or stay in during the storm. The capabilities of prediction today are so much greater than they were in times past that saving lives and protecting property is more possible than it used to be.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best could also be applied to the economic situation. Experts in every financial field have been asked to make predictions about unemployment, home foreclosures, reviving retail figures, the stock market, the value of the dollar and everything else related to the crisis. Expert opinions run from dismally pessimistic to cautiously optimistic.

No one really knows for sure. Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.

We cannot live effectively with blinders on. We must be aware of the big picture. At any given moment, circumstances beyond our control can change our lives. Prepare and hope is good advice.

As a Christian, I believe I can prepare for the best and hope for the best. The best in life is knowing the love of Jesus. My hope is in Christ, my Savior. That hope is not a “hope so,” but a solid expectation that His promises are true.

Preparing for the best, to me, involves being ready to greet Him either when I meet Him in my death or when He comes to receive His own. In that sense, I can predict the future.  I know without a doubt the best is yet to come.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37

The Value of Encouragement

I attended nine schools before junior high school. All of those schools and teachers are a little fuzzy in my memory, with the exception of one teacher.

In seventh grade, my English teacher asked me to stay after school. After reading essays and stories I had written, she encouraged me to write more. Her name is the only teacher’s name I remember from all those years of attending different schools. I have never forgotten her or her encouragement.

As an adult, I have enjoyed writing and teaching Bible studies in churches and conference settings. Through my husband’s encouragement, I have written books, established websites and am always working on other writing projects.

I am convinced none of this would have taken place without encouragement. I have my husband to thank as well as friends and family who encourage me to continue. Those who encourage others have a vital part in their work.

I am not alone in this. Most of us wither a little when someone discourages us. All of us thrive on the encouragement of those we know and love. Recently I read an interview with a best selling author. She said the most encouraging words she had received were from her eight year old grandson who said, “Grandma, you are a good writer.”

Never underestimate the value of encouragement.

God’s word can encourage you each time you read it.  He also wants His children to strengthen and encourage one another.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT).

The Current Economic Crisis: Don’t Give in to Fear

I am a news junkie. Since 2008, practically all news sources (internet, television, newspapers, magazines) have concentrated on the economic crisis. Words like fear, nail biting, stress, perilous, risk-adverse, nervous and panic are commonly part of those news reports. It is hard not to give in to fear.

The Great Recession has been compared to the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt has often been quoted as saying, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” His wife Eleanor said, “He who loses money loses much; he who loses a friend, loses more; he who loses faith, loses all.”

FDR presided from a wheelchair (as a result of polio). The nation listened to him with respect. Overcoming great obstacles himself, he said,” Once you’ve spent two years trying to wiggle one toe, everything is in proportion.”

When through no fault of your own, your accumulated nest egg disappears, there is a natural tendency to be afraid that you will no longer be able to provide for your needs or the needs of your family – diminished or depleted savings will result in a bleak future – a lower standard of living will mean unhappiness or education and experience will no longer do you any good.

Loss of resources you have worked hard to acquire is a major blow. However, despair is not inevitable. If a lifestyle change is necessary, it need not be devastating. Solutions begin with a positive attitude and a faith that God is with you and has a plan for your life – a plan for your good and His glory.

When I became a Christian at age 13, my father gave me a Bible inscribed with his favorite verse. That verse, along with others, has helped me make the choice to fight fear and trust God no matter what the circumstances.

Trust is the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Teamwork: My Job, Your Job, Our Job

My sons are both pilots in the U.S. Air Force. I have visited many of the bases where they have served. One day, I toured a base with the Airfield Manager as our guide. As he was showing us the flight line from a different perspective than I had seen before, I was again reminded of the cooperation that is mandatory between military personnel.

Everyone in the military community seems to have some understanding of what the rest of their team does. Cooperation and big picture awareness is a trait of all Air Force personnel.

Base commanders are expected to see everything from the standpoint of the workings of the entire base; however, their operations are part of the workings of the U. S. Air Force as a whole. Squadron commanders are not only concerned with their own squadrons, but must coordinate with the other squadrons on base.

Pilots see things from a unique perspective but they know their safety depends on every other person on the team, especially maintenance personnel. Without people dedicated to taking care of the airplanes, the pilots would not be safe. Pilots are trained to recognize when something is wrong with the airplane, but keeping them airworthy is the assignment of the maintenance personnel.

Airfield maintenance is another category altogether, but a very important one. The flight line must be clear of debris and maintained so that take offs and landings can be made safely. Controllers in the tower have a most important job as they are must be aware of everything happening on the ground and in the air. Teamwork is a necessary part of being safe, being productive and doing the assigned job.

This same teamwork principle is practiced in team sports. Baseball, football, soccer and many other sports give examples of the necessity of working together. That should also be the case in business and politics. The many examples of breakdowns in business and government are largely due to the inability to work as part of a team.

Being part of a whole is God’s plan for the church, His family.  We are part of a family, a team, a body. When Christians follow His guidelines, His body functions as it should. When some in the Body of Christ do not cooperate with the rest of the church, it becomes dysfunctional.  Not only can we learn from each other, we need each other to accomplish His will.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Romans 12:4-5)

The Christian Day of Worship

No matter where I am on a given Sunday, I go to church. As I do, I am struck with the reminder that we are joining other Christians around the world. We are all part of one family. That family has a special bond on Sunday. Our spirits join together in praise to God.

Since my husband and I travel internationally, I might worship in America one Sunday, Cuba the next, France the next or Poland, Germany, Africa or Austria after that. Wherever we go, I have a sense of belonging. Even when I can’t speak the language or totally understand the sermon, I feel the Spirit.

If you have ever traveled internationally, you know there are differences in the way countries mark their dates and times. If you observe local calendars or need to date a local document, you must check to see what standard is used. The International Organization for Standardization would use 2011-08-01 for the first day of August 2011. Europeans would write 01-08-2011 while 08-01-2011 is the American usage.

There are many other differences in noting time. While many countries use a 24 hour clock, several use a 12 hour clock. Among the countries that use a 12 hour clock, the military, aviation and some other industries in those same countries use a 24 hour clock to avoid confusion.

Many European countries do not count Sunday as the first day of the week. They follow ISO 8601, set in 1988 by the International Organization for Standardization, which marks Monday as the first day of the week.

Most Christians observe the day of worship on Sunday and regard it as the first day of the week. They will often tell you if they are unable to worship on Sunday, their week does not start off right. We should worship Jesus all during the week but there is something about corporate worship that energizes the soul.

No matter how one tells time or marks their calendar, across the time zones of the world, there are gatherings to worship God and thank Him for the wonderful gift of HIs salvation. His Spirit joins us together. I have been privileged to worship Him with people from many nations. It gives me a little taste of what eternity will be like when every knee will bow before Him.

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb (Matthew 28:1).  Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week. . . Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul. . . spoke to them and continued his message until midnight (Acts 20:7).

The Anticipation And Excitement of Being Face to Face with Loved Ones

When it comes to a reunion with a loved one, I’m like a child. Not only do I prepare for the visit – cleaning, making beds, preparing meals – something about the moment of greeting brings joy to my heart. I get excited.

When my family drives in for a visit, I go to the window or the door constantly looking for them. I am seldom in the house when they arrive.  I am usually waiting for them on the back porch. By the time they turn off the ignition in the car, I am by their side.

My husband and I work together, travel together and play together. When he does go out by himself, I find myself listening for the car to come down the driveway or for the door of our house to open. I am often upstairs, but head downstairs to greet him at the door. I want him to know I missed him.

If I am meeting family or friends at the airport, I look through the crowd until I see their faces. It is not hard for me to recognize them. I know them. They are part of my family, either my immediate family or my spiritual family.

The same is true when a loved one leaves. I watch them until I can’t see them any longer. I often feel like a part of me is leaving with them.

I can identify with the apostles who stood gazing into heaven as Jesus was taken up. They couldn’t take their eyes off of the clouds just in case they could catch one more glimpse of Him.

The sense of joyful anticipation I feel when greeting loved ones, I believe, is a small preview to what it will be like for me to see Jesus face to face.  I want to be ready to greet Him. I cannot wait to see Him. I know I will recognize Him because I know Him and He knows me.

As eager as I am to see Him, I believe He is also looking for me much like I watch for the arrival of my loved ones. I get excited just thinking about it.

But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2b).

Cleaning House

My husband and I own a house in America, but are seldom there. When we do return home, it’s obvious we have been gone. Not so much from the outside (wonderful neighbors and church friends look after the yard), but when I walk in the door, it isn’t long before I head for the vacuum cleaner. There is a layer of dust all through the house, covering furniture and floors.

Beautifully crafted pieces of furniture do not look attractive with a layer of dust. In order to see details of a piece, dirt must be removed. Sometimes a good polish is also in order. After that is done, I remember why we bought that piece of furniture. Clean, it is very appealing. Dirty, it is not.

The house is a 1905 Queen Anne Victorian. Although there has been much restoration done (and more in the process), there are some things lacking that most modern houses have. There is no insulation in the walls or under the floors. Daylight can be seen underneath entry doors. Where pocket doors inset the wall, the ground is sometimes visible from the floor.

As a result, insects can easily find their way into our home. In our absence, spiders take up residence. There are cobwebs everywhere – especially in the corners of the twelve-foot ceilings. Getting rid of the cobwebs is quite an effort. I am short. I need to stand on a ladder just to reach them with the extension on the vacuum cleaner or a long handled broom.

I really notice those cobwebs when I first return home, but a strange thing happens if I don’t tackle them right away. I forget about them. I no longer look up in the corners of the doorways or the ceilings. I get busy with other things – office work, yard work, shopping and visiting friends and neighbors. I feel a bit like Morticia from the Addams Family. The cobwebs can stay. They are part of the decor.

It occurs to me that sin is a lot like the dust on the furniture and the spider webs in the corner. If I don’t insulate myself against things displeasing to God (by staying in the Word or talking to God about everything), I tend to get used to them. I don’t notice the irritable thoughts, the lazy attitude toward commitments I made to Him, the selfishness that rears its ugly head. I get busy with other things and neglect to clean the corners in my life.

The best remedy for cleanliness at home and in my spiritual life is to tackle the dirt immediately. A close examination of my house always requires more cleaning. A close examination of my life does the same. Maybe I get accustomed to those unattractive, sinful attitudes, but I’m certain God does not. His desire is for my life to be pure and clean. He wants to see the reflection of His Son in me.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. . . (Psalm 24:3-4a NKJV). Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NLT).  

National Checkpoints and Boundaries

As my husband and I travel in our ministry, most of the time we fly. In the process, we encounter many checkpoints – passport checks, immigration checks, custom checks, etc. These checkpoints mark a boundary between two countries: either the country of our residence or the country where we are traveling from to the country we are traveling to. Each country has a specific form that must be filled out on entry with information on the person who is traveling – the foreigner. Even though people at the checkpoints speak English, it is still obvious we are entering another country.

Although we mostly travel by air, we sometimes use a train or drive to another country. When we lived in El Paso, TX and traveled to Mexico, long lines at the border were stark reminders that this was a boundary.

There was a time when car travel in Europe meant going through tedious checkpoints at national boundaries. Now many who are part of the European Union can travel freely from one country to the next without being stopped, but the physical checkpoints are still there as a reminder of the boundary.

When traveling by train from one country to another, even if the train does not stop at the border, officials enter the train and check your documents. Boundaries exist for security reasons. We have observed people without proper documentation being removed from our train.

I learn a lot by watching people in airports and train stations.  I hear many languages being spoken around me. As I pass through the check out lines, I observe the variety of colors in the passports people are holding in their hands. Even languages and passports are a type of boundary.

Once we are through the checkpoints, have collected our luggage and are joined with our partners in ministry, there is great sense of relief. Boundaries no longer apply. We are part of the family of God, no matter what country issued our passports. I am not a foreigner in their homes or churches. There is a bond. It is a blessing to be part of a worldwide family of God where boundaries do not exist.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). There is one body and one Spirit. . . one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4, 6).

Freedom and the French-American Friendship

My husband and I lived in France for a year. I developed some deep friendships with some French people in the church where we were serving and learned a great deal of our joint history. 

The Statue of Liberty

A joint project between France and America, the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty was built by Americans and the statue itself, designed and built by French artist Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, was completed in France, disassembled and shipped to the United States. An icon of freedom, the official name of the Statue is the “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.” The statue was a gift from the people of France and symbolizes the friendship between the two countries.

Normandy

The Allied assault on D-Day (June 6,1944) aimed to liberate France and drive into Nazi Germany. Over 9,387 Americans are buried in the American cemetery in Normandy with an additional 1557 names inscribed on the Walls of the Missing. France has granted a special perpetual concession to the land, free of any charge or tax. The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains the cemetery. Two Italian granite figures at the western end of the central mall represent the United States and France.

The last battle in the Campaign for Normandy was the Liberation of Paris. It started with an uprising by French Resistance against the German Paris garrison. On August 24, French Forces of the Interior received backup from the Free French Army of Liberation and the United States 4th Infantry Division. On August 29, a joint Franco-American victory military parade traveled through the streets of Paris.

Casablanca 

The cooperation of French and Americans during the war inspired one of the best-known movies of all time. Casablanca was set in unoccupied French Morocco during WW II. The movie bore the name of the stopping off point on the way to Lisbon and then to America as people attempted to escape Nazi occupied Europe.

The main characters in the story are Rick Blaine, lIsa Lund and Victor Laszlo. Prior to the German occupation of Paris, Rick and lIsa fell in love.  On the day the Germans marched into Paris, lIsa was to meet Rick at the train station but failed to show up. She had received word that her husband Victor Laszlo, a Czech resistance leader, had not died in the Nazi concentration camp but was alive and needed her.

Rick goes to Casablanca and sets up Rick’s Café Américain. Rick and Ilsa meet again as lIsa and Victor arrive in Casablanca, attempting to find passage to America. German Major Strasser comes to Casablanca to prevent Laszlo from leaving. While in Rick’s cafe, he leads his soldiers to sing the German national anthem. Victor Laszlo then orders Rick’s band to play La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. When the bandleader looks to Rick, he nods his head in approval.

Rick helps Victor and lIsa escape to America by providing them with letters of transit to Lisbon. When Major Strasser tries to stop them, Rick shoots him. The movie ends with Rick and Captain Renault (the local police chief) making plans to join the Free French at Brazzaville, ending with the memorable line by Rick, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Friends and Brothers, Free Indeed

Our national mottos are Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, and In God We Trust. The origins of the French motto are not Christian, but the principles are. The God in whom we trust has provided a way for us to have liberty, equality and brotherhood. Through Christ, true freedom is possible. Through Christ, we experience a brotherhood that lasts forever.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . .Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36).